9 People Per Day Are Killed In Crashes Involving Distracted Drivers Using Social Media

Distracted driving comes in many forms, from talking on the phone, to messing with a navigation system, or posing for selfies on the latest social media app. Over the weekend, the latter distraction, combined with another dangerous driving hazard — drunk driving — to claim the life of a teen in California. 

NBC News reports that a 14-year-old California girl was killed Friday evening when her sister, who was allegedly impaired and using social media, crashed a vehicle the teens were passengers in. Another teen was injured in the crash.

The 18-year-old, who was arrested on suspicion of DUI and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, allegedly live-streamed the crash’s aftermath on Instagram.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the 2003 Buick veered onto the right should of a road, when the driver overcorrected, causing the car to swerve across lanes before crashing into a fence and overturning into a field.

Authorities tell NBC News that they are aware of a video posted to social media that was allegedly recorded during and after the crash.

CHP says it is investigating the video and working to determine if recording the footage contributed to the crash.

The video, which BuzzFeed News reports was on Instagram for nearly 19 hours before being deleted, purportedly shows the 18-year-old driver singing to music and flipping off the camera before the footage goes blurry and screams can be heard. The video then shows the driver talking to the camera near what is allegedly her sister’s lifeless body.

“My sister is f—— dying. Look, I f—— love my sister to death. I don’t give a f—. Man, we about to die. This is the last thing I wanted to happen to us, but it just did. Jacqueline, please wake up,” the driver can be heard saying on the video. “I don’t f‑‑‑‑‑‑ care though,” Sanchez continued. “I’m a hold it down. I love you, rest in peace, sweetie. If you don’t survive, baby, I am so f‑‑‑‑‑‑ sorry. I did not mean to kill you, sweetie. Sweetie, I am f‑‑‑‑‑‑ sorry. Sweetie, please, wake up!”

More Distractions

Each day, nine people are killed in vehicles crashes that involve a distracted driver, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With consumers’ reliance on smartphones and chaining technology, the types of distractions are increasing. For instance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now records the number of instances in which drivers are distracted by manipulating handheld devices.

Drivers are counted as visibly manipulating handheld devices if they appear to be using some kind of device to text message, surf the web, check emails, manually dial a number, play games, or use the phone in front of their faces.

“Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds,” according to NHTSA. “At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

While NHTSA’s most recent statistics don’t show a significant increase in the number of drivers partaking in this kind of distraction, the decrease from 2.2% to 2.1% between 2015 and 2016 was not considered statistically significant.

Still, young drivers have been observed manipulating electronic devices at higher rates than older drivers since 2007.

At the same time, NHTSA found that the percentage of passenger vehicle drivers talking on handheld cell phones decreased from 3.8% to 3.3%.

“You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention,” the agency says on its distracted driving resource page. “Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.”

Reducing Distractions

While NHTSA and the CDC do not break out the number of drivers using social media while behind the wheel, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety contended in 2015 that such distractions are on the rise.

For instance, in Sept. 2015, there were 22,067 Instagram posts under #drivingselfie. A look at the hashtag today shows more than 30,000 posts.

survey from AT&T also points to an increase in distractive driving related to social media and selfies. According to a 2015 AT&T report, one in five respondents — or 17% — admitted to taking selfies or other photos while driving.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety note that 39 states have taken steps to decrease distracted driving, by enacting laws that ban text messaging for all drivers.

“In order to get people to pay attention while operating a vehicle and to adopt safer behaviors, education must be combined with strong laws and appropriate enforcement,” the group says. “This is the tried and true method to change behavior in order to improve safety.”

The Navy Gets Its First Female SEAL Candidate

The Navy says it has its first female candidates for two elite special operations jobs previously closed to women — including a prospective SEAL.

One woman is in the pipeline to be a SEAL officer, and another is on the path to becoming a special warfare combatant crewman. The news was first reported by Military.com, an independent website. The Navy declined to identify the candidates, citing security considerations.

The announcement comes more than 18 months after the Pentagon declared that women can now serve in front-line combat positions.

“They are the first candidates that have made it this far in the process,” Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, spokesman for the Naval Special Warfare Command, told the Two-Way.

Whoever these unnamed trailblazers are, the path ahead for them won’t be easy. To become a SEAL or SWCC, they’ll need to make it through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, which is designed to be extremely physically and mentally demanding.

Few candidates who undertake the training emerge as SEALs or special boat operators. The enlisted SEAL attrition rate is 73 to 75 percent, according to the Navy, while the SWCC attrition rate is 63 percent.

The SEAL officer program has a higher rate of success: 65 percent of candidates make it through. The officer program isn’t easier, though — the Navy attributes the differing success rates to a larger number of candidates in the enlisted program.

Female candidates for these jobs will have to complete the same training that men do, without any allowances for differing average physical capabilities.

What makes the training so difficult?

“It’s different for everyone,” Walton said. “It could be the physical stuff, it could be mental, it could be medical. There could be a lot of different reasons.”

While the two candidates are now closer to these elite Navy positions than a woman has ever been, it may be a while before one of them finally gets the job.

“It would be premature to speculate as to when we will see the first woman SEAL or SWCC graduate,” Walton told NPR. “It may take months and potentially years.”

Female candidates aren’t the only change to come to the Navy’s elite operations. Walton confirmed that SWCC now includes one transgender person.

And if the two women in the Navy’s special operations pipeline are successful, we may not get much detail.

“If you announce who they are, that removes the point of them becoming a special operator,” said Walton. “I guess we’ll see what we do … when we get there.”

There’s Literally a Ton of Plastic Garbage For Every Person on Earth

More than 9 billion tons of plastic has been produced since 1950, and the vast majority of it is still around.

A new study that tracked the global manufacture and distribution of plastics since they became widespread after World War II found that only 2 billion tons of that plastic is still in use.

Seven billion tons is stuck on Earth as garbage in landfills, recycled trash or pollution in the environment, including deep oceans, where it’s been discovered in the mouths of whales and the bellies of dead seabirds that mistook it for food. A small amount is eliminated in incinerators.

As plastic becomes near-indestructible mountains of garbage on land and swirling vortexes of trash on the high seas, humans keep making more. Half of the plastic that people mostly use once and toss away was created in the past 30 years, the study says.

Plastic’s most lucrative market is packaging commonly seen in grocery stores. It could be in front of you right now, in the form of a water bottle, a carryout lunch container, or an iced-coffee or tea cup with its disposable straw.

It’s a miracle product that’s also in your office chair, phone and computer keyboard. The pipes that move water in your building are often plastic. You probably touch plastic to switch on the car radio on the foam plastic dashboard. Plastic is pretty much everywhere humans are at any part of the day, anywhere in the world.

In 1960, plastic accounted for just 1 percent of junk in municipal landfills across the world. As single-package containers led to an explosion in convenience and use, that number grew to 10 percent in 2005.

A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimated the amount of plastic debris floating in the open ocean at 7,000 to 35,000 tons.

“If current trends continue, the researchers predict over 13 billion tons of plastic will be discarded in landfills or in the environment by 2050,” the American Association for the Advancement of Science said in a statement announcing the new study’s release Wednesday. It was published in the journal Science Advances.

“I think for me that’s the single most surprising thing, the implication of the large growth rate,” said Roland Geyer, one of the authors.

Another surprise, he said, is how far the United States lags behind China and Europe in recycling plastic material.

In the study, Geyer wrote, “On the basis of limited available data, the highest recycling rates in 2014 were in Europe (30 percent) and China (25 percent), whereas in the United States, plastic recycling has remained steady at 9 percent.”

Recycling only delays plastic’s inevitable trip to a trash bin. Incineration is the only way to assure that plastic is eliminated, and Europe and China by far lead the United States in that category as well, up to 40 percent compared with 16 percent.

But burning plastic is risky because if the emissions aren’t carefully filtered, harmful chemicals become air pollution. Like other countries, the United States has been slow to enforce regulations on industry emissions.

China is easily the world’s largest producer of plastics, with Europe and North America also looming large as major players, Geyer said. Other Asian nations round out a long list of manufacturers. But consumers are the polluters, and people on every continent participate, from the Arctic to Africa.

Plastic’s vampire-like life cycle is nothing new.

What’s new with this research is its use of plastic-production data with “product lifetime distributions from eight different industrial sectors” to build a scientific model that showed “how long plastics are in use before they reach the end of their useful lifetimes and are discarded,” the study said.

Geyer, an associate professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, wrote the study with two colleagues, Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, and Kara Lavender Law, a researcher at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Each of them studied ocean garbage in the past, but Geyer, whose field is industrial ecology, the study of material and energy, suggested the plastics study. “I’m fascinated by materials and the way we use them .. in particular waste management.”

The scale of the world’s plastic consumption and waste shocked them. “Even we were kind of surprised at the sheer magnitude of plastics being made and used,” Geyer said. He said he hopes politicians, conservationists and consumers will pay attention to what they found.

“My hope is readers will get a sense of the sheer magnitude of the tide of plastics and the plastic-waste challenge we’re facing,” he said. “It’s enormous, and it’s accelerating.”

Unless it’s burned, plastic has nowhere to go but in the ground or the water. “I think most experts agree these polymers .. are going to be with us for decades if not centuries,” Geyer said.

“I think the danger is permanent global contamination with plastics,” he said.

“It’s just going to be everywhere, in the soil, in the ocean, in the sediment of the ocean floor, and it’s just going to accumulate.”

2017 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

Should People Over The Age Of 70 Lose The Right To Vote?

In 1970, Douglas Stewart, a university professor in California, was upset by the rise of Ronald Reagan and suggested that perhaps there were too many old people moving to California and voting, writing a controversial article in the New Republic titled “Disenfranchise the old”:

The vote should not be a privilege in perpetuity, guaranteed by minimal physical survival, but a share in the continuing fate of the political community, both in its benefits and its risks. The old, having no future, are dangerously free from the consequences of their own political acts, and it makes no sense to allow the vote to someone who is actuarially unlikely to survive, and pay the bills for, the politician or party he may help elect…. I would advocate that all persons lose the vote at retirement or age 70, whichever is earlier.

Now as a baby boomer within two elections of that “best before” age, of course I’m shocked and appalled at such a suggestion; it’s ageist and discriminatory, and boomers and seniors have so much to offer.

But Stewart has a point. What he saw in California in the ’70s is playing out in America today. The boomers and the older voters won the presidential election (although Donald Trump did win among young white people without a college education).

And as I predicted, the millennials did not show up in anything like the numbers the boomers and seniors did, and the current government is doing everything in its power to turn back the clock, to reduce taxes on the rich baby boomers, to remove regulations that protect the environment for generations young and yet to come, so that extractors and developers can make money now.

In effect, the older voters get to keep what’s theirs and leave the mess for the kids to clean up.

You can see this happening plain as day with the new Trumpcare act working its way through the Senate, one that dramatically cuts funding for Medicaid. Note the shape of the spending curve for the aged — it goes up and then down, so that the impact on older voters isn’t felt for a decade, when many might well be dead. Because as Reagan noted, “You dance with the one that brung ya.”

‘Kicking the can down the road’

You can see it happening with debt and the way governments are run. Sayyajit Das writes in Bloomberg about how we’re living today at the expense of tomorrow:

The prevailing approach to dealing with these problems exacerbates generational tensions. The central strategy is “kicking the can down the road” or “extend and pretend,” avoiding crucial decisions that would reduce current living standards, eschewing necessary sacrifices, and deferring problems with associated costs into the future.

You see it happening in cities and suburbs around North America, where older voters reject initiatives to build transit, increase density or install bike lanes in favor of NIMBYism, resistance to change, and maintaining the right to drive a big car anywhere and to have free or cheap parking when they get there.

I’ve argued in the past that millennials have nobody to blame but themselves if they don’t show up and vote, but that’s not entirely true; the older people in charge have made it very difficult for them to vote and have gamed the system. And once they have that power, they use it. Daniel Munroe discusses the issue in Macleans:

Decisions made by older generations will affect the interests of younger and unborn generations, but those younger generations will themselves have less or no say. Moreover, as some argue, older citizens have greater incentives to deplete natural resources, underinvest in infrastructure, accumulate public debt and ignore the environment. Polls of top political issues show that concern for the environment and education declines with age. Grandma votes against carbon taxes and recycling programs, and Grandpa votes against education spending? So take away their right to vote and let younger people make decisions about the future.

Given that the older Republican base controls Congress and most state governments, they have the levers now to gerrymander districts and suppress voter registration, disenfranchising younger voters. It’s unlikely that they’re going to take away the votes of older boomers and seniors who put them in power.

And in the end, it’s probably a moot point anyway. According to Ronald Brownstein in the Atlantic, the next presidential election in 2020 is going to be the first since 1974 in which the baby boomers are not the largest cohort, where millennials will be 34 percent of voters while boomers will shrink to 28 percent. Only half of eligible millennials voted in 2016; one suspects that in 2020, they may be older, wiser and more engaged.

They had better be paying attention, because as Sayyajit Das so elegantly put it:

Future generations will bear the ultimate cost of present decisions or inaction. As in Francisco Goya’s famous painting, “Saturn Devouring His Son,” today, the old are eating their children.

No Such Thing As Climate Change Huh? An Iceberg The Size of Delaware Just Broke Off Antarctica

An iceberg the size of Delaware has broken free from an Antarctic ice shelf, leaving the rest of the shelf vulnerable to collapse and serving as a harbinger of future sea-level rise that could pose a serious threat to coastal communities.

The break in the Larsen C ice shelf — the most northern major ice shelf in the region occurred Wednesday, according to Project MIDAS, a UK-based monitoring group.

Ice shelves are the thick, floating ice at the edge of the continent, and they serve as buttresses, keeping onshore glaciers from sliding into the sea. Researchers have been monitoring the rift in the Larsen C shelf for years and became alarmed in December when the breach widened dramatically. At one point this spring, the rift grew by 11 miles in less than a week, leaving only eight miles left and raising fears that a complete break was imminent. More than six months later — in the middle of the Antarctic winter — the break has occurred.

“The situation with the Larsen [C] ice shelf is a combination of fascinating and troubling, a tangible piece of a larger slow-motion disaster unfolding in front of our eyes,” said Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University. “We are seeing a microcosm of the future… a future that may already be inevitable and, if not, will likely be so if we transgress the 2º C warming target.”

Larsen C is about 1100 feet thick and rests at the edge of West Antarctica, blocking the glaciers that feed into it. All of the region’s ice shelves, including Larsens A, B, and C, impede the movement of Antarctic glaciers, which, if they float into the ocean, can hasten sea-level rise.

The Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995 and the Larsen B shelf suddenly crumbled in 2002 after a similar rift developed.

“One of the processes causing the disintegration of the Larsen… is also implicated in the rapid changes in the Amundsen Sea area of West Antarctica — Thwaites glacier, Pine Island glacier,’’ said Oppenheimer, a long-time participant in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. When land-based ice goes into the ocean, it causes sea-level rise.

“There is a relatively small amount of ice behind the Larsen, so even if it all disintegrated, the contribution to sea-level rise would be modest, a few inches,’’ he said. Still, even a few inches of sea-level rise is meaningful, especially when combined with storm surge in low-lying areas.

And what is happening with Larsen C is not an isolated problem. Cracks in other Antarctic ice shelves also have developed.

“There is several meters worth of ice behind the other ice shelves and more behind vulnerable ice shelves in East Antarctica. So what we are seeing is a vivid demonstration of what warm water and warm air can do to an ice shelf and the land-based ice sheet that the shelf has been restraining,” Oppenheimer said.

With the break, Larsen C lost more than 10 percent of its area, leaving the ice front at the most retreated position on record, according to Project Midas, a UK-based Antarctic research effort.

“This is just the latest empirical evidence for what scientists have increasingly concluded in recent years,” said Michael Mann, professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and director of its Earth System Science Center. “Namely, that the West Antarctic ice sheet is less stable with respect to global warming than once thought, and its demise is occurring ahead of schedule, and with it, so is global sea-level rise.’’

Kevin E. Trenberth, a senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said there have been conflicting theories surrounding the impact of climate change on the region.

“Warming of the atmosphere means that moisture can be carried farther inland, and one prospect that has been mentioned is that more snow could occur in Antarctica, which could contribute to lowering of sea level, countering trends elsewhere,” he said. “Observations of precipitation are poor, and we do not have good information on this aspect.”

Trenberth explained that waters around Antarctica are warming more than anywhere, undermining ice shelves. “This has gained support from various studies over time, so once again the outcome is more icebergs breaking away from Antarctica.”

“The key question is, ‘What does this mean overall?’” he said. “Is the West Antarctic ice sheet unstable and may become ungrounded, resulting in it melting and 20 feet of sea-level rise ultimately? The uncertainties are huge and the topic is important.”

Richard Alley, a glaciologist at Pennsylvania State University, agreed. Alley believes the shrinking of Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves is likely do to warming, though uncertainties abound.

“Think of all the ceramic coffee cups you have ever seen dropped on the floor,” he said. “Some have bounced, some chipped, some broken in two, some smashed. We all know that dropping a ceramic coffee cup on the floor risks breakage, but we would be hard-pressed to predict exactly what one cup will do. Exactly where this break will go on Larsen C, and how it will affect the probability of additional breaks behind it, fall into the category of predicting one break.

“We can surely improve our data, our understanding of the setting, and our models, and reduce the uncertainties for similar events in the future,” he said. “But there will always be some uncertainty. If one wishes to avoid really costly breakage… leading to meters of sea-level rise, the approach… is to leave a wide safety margin, which would mean limiting warming.”

As for the fate of the breakaway iceberg, climate scientists have developed models that can predict its journey. Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research have figured out how Antarctic icebergs drift through the Southern Ocean.

When it comes to huge icebergs like the Larsen C, its motion is largely dictated by its weight and by the fact that the surface of the Southern Ocean is not flat but typically leans to the north. The sea level can be up to half a meter higher on the southern edge of the Weddell Sea or along the Antarctic Peninsula than at its center. How far it will drift depends on whether it remains intact or breaks up into smaller pieces, the researchers said. The iceberg also could run aground for a while.

“If it doesn’t break up, chances are good that it will first drift for about a year through the Weddell Sea, along the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula,” said Thomas Rackow, a climate modeler at the Wegener Institute and first author of the study. “Then it will most likely follow a northeasterly course, heading roughly for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.”

Because it is so heavy, Larsen C likely will survive for eight to ten years, according to the scientists’ computer models, a period regarded as the maximum life expectancy for even the largest of icebergs.

Why Fake News Goes Viral: Science Explains

People’s limited attention spans, plus the sheer overload of information on social media may combine to make fake news and hoaxes go viral, according to a new study.

Understanding why and how fake news spreads may one day help researchers develop tools to combat its spread, the researchers said.

For example, the new research points toward curbing the use of social bots — computer programs that automatically generate messages such as tweets that inundate social media with low-quality information — to prevent the spread of misinformation, the researchers said.

However, “Detecting social bots is a very challenging task,” said study co-author Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing.

Previous research has shown that some of people’s cognitive processes may help to perpetuate the spread of misinformation such as fake news and hoaxes, according to the study, published today (June 26) in the journal Nature Human Behavior. For example, people tend to show “confirmation bias” and pay attention to and share only the information that is in line with their beliefs, while discarding information that is not in line with their beliefs. Studies show that people do this even if the information that confirms their beliefs is false.

In the new study, the researchers looked at some other potential mechanisms that may be at play in spreading misinformation. The researchers developed a computer model of meme sharing to see how individual attention and the information load that social media users are exposed to affect the popularity of low-quality versus high-quality memes. The researchers considered memes to be of higher quality if they were more original, had beautiful photos or made a claim that was true.

The investigators found that low- and high-quality memes were equally likely to be shared because social media users’ attention is finite and people are simply too overloaded with information to be able to discriminate between low- and high-quality memes. This finding explains why poor-quality information such as fake news is still likely to spread despite its low quality, the researchers said.

One way to help people better discriminate between low- and high-quality information on social media would be to reduce the extent of information load that they are exposed to, the researchers said. One key way to do so could involve decreasing the volume of social media posts created by social bots that amplify information that is often false and misleading, Menczer said.

Social bots can act as followers on social media sites like Twitter, or they can be run as fake social media accounts that have their own followers. The bots can imitate human behavior online and generate their own online personas that can in turn influence real, human users of social media.

“Huge numbers” of these bots can be managed via special software, Menczer said.

“If social media platforms were able to detect and suspend deceptive social bots … there would be less low-quality information in the system to crowd out high-quality information,” he told Live Science.

However, both detecting and suspending such bots is challenging, he said. Although machine-learning systems for detecting social bots exist, these systems are not always accurate. Social media platforms have to be conservative when using such systems, because the cost of a false positive error — in other words, suspending a legitimate account — is generally much higher than that of missing a bot, Menczer said.

More research is needed to design fast and more accurate social bot detection systems, he said.

Your Favorite Coffee Could Be Going Extinct Thanks To Climate Change

Ethiopia, the birthplace of the coffee bean, is poised to lose up to 60% of its suitable farming land by the end of this century thanks in large part to climate change, a new study published in the journal Nature Plants reported.

The coffee bean, specifically Arabica coffee, provides the African nation with nearly one quarter of its export earnings, totaling more than $800 million, according to the study. But soon farmers will have to find new land at either higher altitudes or cooler temperatures to produce the coffee the world over knows and loves.

“There is a pathway to resilience, even under climate change,” Aaron Davis, from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew who conducted research work with Ethiopian scientists, told the Guardian. “But it is a hugely daunting task. Millions of farmers would have to change.”

The pathway Davis describes will ask farmers to move into the mountain regions and bring their crop to a higher altitude where temperatures are more stable and more friendly to the fickle crop. But, the move would be an absolute last-ditch effort. As Davis said, “It literally reaches the ceiling, because you don’t have any higher place to go.”

And while moving the crop into a more habitable climate would save production, it would ultimately change the taste of coffee forever.

As CNN reported, higher temperatures, like those caused by climate change, cause coffee beans to ripen too quickly, creating less flavorful beans.

But, moving the beans to a cooler climate will present its own challenges. By moving the plants farmers will likely have to change the plant varieties, Popular Science noted, and “at a minimum you’ll have different soil quality up there.” So either way, the taste and quality of your favorite coffee will likely be a little off.

And it’s not just Ethiopia’s coffee industry who could feel the effects of climate change sooner rather than later: If Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, sees temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius, it would experience a two-thirds drop in sustainable farming area for coffee, the Guardian reported. Additionally, the Guardian pointed out that in 2016 a group of researchers predicted that climate change could soon halve the world’s coffee-growing area.

And caffeine is simply an addiction the world can’t kick. In the United States alone, 54% of adults self-identify as daily coffee drinkers, according to the National Coffee Association. Although the average American already drinks 3.1 cups of coffee per day, the World Coffee Research report found that demand for the caffeinated beverage will double by 2050.

As for what consumers can do now to help support farmers, Mike Kapos, Vice President of Marketing and third generation owner of Downeast Coffee Roasters, said to simply learn about where your coffee products come from and use your purchasing power for good.

“Pay attention to what you’re buying and try to support shops that offer sustainably sourced coffee,” Kapos said. “If the farmers are paid a fair price they’ll be in a better position to take the necessary steps in fighting this.”

Meat-Eaters Are Increasingly Ordering Vegan Meals

Vegan dining is undeniably growing, with an increase in vegan restaurants in the UK and elsewhere in the world.

Vegan menu options at restaurants that serve animal products are more common now, too. In fact, The Press Herald recently reported that even those who eat meat at home are increasingly likely to order vegan food when dining out, and magazine Marie Claire did a story featuring some of the great options for vegetarians and vegans at UK and Ireland eateries.

Why meat-free?

According to the Harris Poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group, well over a third of the non-vegetarian people who responded to their poll sometimes order vegetarian meals when dining out. The reasons that were given for choosing the veggie dish include health, cost, and animals.

Some people order off the vegan menu out of concern for horrible damage that the meat industry is doing to the environment. (After all, agriculture is responsible for at least a third of greenhouse gas emissions, with around half of that coming from livestock.)

Others order from the vegan menu because they fear otherwise having a dairy allergy ignored. Many people choose vegan dishes because they are watching their cholesterol or otherwise trying to avoid the negative consequences that eating meat can have on humans, too.

When talking about vegan dining, what many people don’t consider is that nearly everyone eats a lot of vegan food already. Of course, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, and many other dietary staples are already vegan.

People can enjoy foods they already love when feeling adventurous and ordering from the vegan menu. Half the fun can be trying new flavors and foods that people never bothered with while eating animal-based products.

Impact on business

Tyson Foods, the biggest producer of meat in the United States, even invested in Beyond Meat and also launched a venture capital fund to invest in startups that aim to develop meat substitutes. The CEO even hinted that the future is looking a lot more vegan, and earlier this year stated: “Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction.”

Going into 2017, Modern Restaurant Management, a popular online restaurant magazine, predicted that plant-based protein would be served in more and more restaurants. According to the magazine, the industry is undeniably growing, and ‘we will be seeing vegetable proteins throughout our dining experiences’.

That prediction seems to be on solid ground.

The future is vegan

It’s easy to see why vegan dining would appeal to anyone. A chef is only limited by their imagination in what they can do with vegan ingredients, and the public increasingly wants healthier, more affordable, and more compassionate food choices.

When going out to eat, people can order vegan options and enjoy a delectable meal with all the flavor they crave and the nutrition they need. Why, then, would anyone order a meat-based dish with all the harm it can cause the environment, one’s personal health, and, of course, the animals who were killed for it?

It seems the world is waking up to the fact that vegan dining is, indeed, the future.

Why Is Slime the Internet’s Latest Wellness Obsession?

Some people find clarity in the sweat of a 45-minute soul cycle session and others enlist the help of meditation teachers, but a growing segment of #GramGen is choosing the simplicity of slime as their preferred stress outlet.

With more than 3 million Instagram posts tagged #slime and a seemingly endless number of YouTube tutorials teaching you how to make your own goo, there seems to be something universally appealing about slime.

The trend is not about the neon green liquid Nickelodeon releases on stars at the Teen Choice Awards or the substance that collects at the bottom of your trash can when the liner bag breaks. On the contrary, one of the defining qualities of internet slime is attractiveness.

“When I started making slime, it was because I came across Thai videos where it looked really pretty,” Prim Pattanaporn, of the Instagram account SparklyGoo, said. “I wanted to purchase it, only I couldn’t find a vendor. I just felt like I had to touch it.”

Ideal slime apparently has dazzling visual elements, but it also has to make viewers want to play with it themselves. Somewhere between art and a stress ball, the trend that started with Thai teens most closely resembles the ’90s Nickelodeon toy “Gak.” But, unlike its corporate counterpart, the current fascination with slime has to do in part with creators finding the perfect formulas. Some variations include clear slime, butter slime and holographic slime.

“Its definitely a form of art,” Pattanaporn told us. “You can get creative with it. You can change how the colors will look and how it will feel.”

Is It Actually Therapeutic?

Although slime is spreading like wildfire across the web, part of what makes the trend popular is that it counteracts the sensations we get from interacting with Smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Art therapist Nadia Jenefsky says that, as people are being exposed to more and more screen time from earlier ages, they crave different sensations.

“What’s changing nowadays is that kids are spending more time with screens, so they are getting an excessive amount of one type of sensory input, which is the smooth rubbing of a finger on a screen or keyboard,” Jenefsky told Highsnobiety. “Children in general are getting less sensory and tactile input from playing outside and picking up sticks or making patty cakes out of mud. Slime has come in to take the place of those activities that we are less inclined to do because we don’t want to make a mess or can’t go out in nature as much.”

Aside from the visual and tactile elements of slime, the sound it makes when people play with it provides a type of ASMR relief. There are even those who add a fourth sensory pleasure to their creations by including essential oils in their recipes, giving it aromatherapy properties.

Jenefsky added that sedentary lifestyles also contribute to our desire to play with slime.

“We are all more stressed and just having something to fidget with or play with in your hand is a good way to discharge tension or stress energy,” she said. “Especially if you are stressed because you have to sit at a desk or on the subway. Our high levels of stress, combined with high levels of inertia, make us want to discharge physical energy through stress balls, slime or coloring books.”

While at first glance slime may resemble play dough or clay, creating sculptures is not the point.

“There is a difference between process-oriented therapy which is about interacting with the thing that you are making, and product-oriented therapy which is about working towards a finished piece that you want to keep and look at. Slime is about mixing ingredients and experimenting with different colors and supplies,” Jenefsky said.

Slimey Money

Teenage girls, who serve both as the trendsetters and the businesswomen slinging their top goo mixtures for roughly $7-10 per tub, almost exclusively run the slime market. At 23, Pattanaporn is actually a grande dame of slime, with other creators being as young as 11.

Still, she has carved her space in the DIY business, selling tubs when home from University. Last year she sold more than $600 worth of slime. Other accounts operated on a more regular schedule, such as CraftySlimeCreator, run by 15-year-old slimestress Alyssa Jagan, have managed to bring in more than $6,800 in even less time.

For many creators, the drive to go into the slime business comes more from popular demand than a desire to make money. In Pattanaporn’s case, the fans twisted her arm.

“People were asking in my direct messages to buy my slime, but I was a bit scared of the shipping process,” the Vancouver native said. “I wasn’t an expert at selling; I just like art. Then this person from Florida wanted to buy my slime and he said he didn’t mind paying the shipping fee, which can be expensive from Canada to the U.S. It took off from there.”

But large chains have also got on the bandwagon. U.S. craft supply giant, Michaels, has opened an online “Slime Headquarters,” selling ingredients and accessories for slime creators.

Many slime ingredients like shaving cream, detergent and glue are things people already have around the house, but glitter, micro-beads, coloring and confetti can be crucial to getting a unique blend.

Why Germans Don’t Touch It

Although slime also has German fans, one of the main components in many recipes is Borax, a cleaning agent banned from home use in Germany, owing to its link to infertility.

“I really want to make it myself and have looked up a lot of recipes, but you just can’t get Borax in Germany,” Louisa R., 22, of Berlin told Highsnobiety. “What draws people to slime is that it is natural and almost a primordial form,” she added. “Perfect geometrical and electronic forms dominate our world today, and I think that people want something else.”

Still, there are many people, like Louisa, who reap the relaxing benefits of slime without ever touching it. Just watching the colors and textures of the goop being kneaded and handled can be soothing.

“I watch the videos at night before I go to bed in order to relax, or when I have a break at university,” she said. “Everyone has their preferences when it comes to slime, but I love ones with air bubbles that pop. It’s a release for me.”

Renewable Energy in the U.S. Broke Energy Records for the First Time

A new report shows that earlier this year, renewables broke energy records in the United States for the first time. The data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly demonstrated that the monthly electricity generation from solar and wind sources made up 10 percent of the country’s total generation in the U.S. during the month of March.

The date from the EIA showed that around 8 percent of the total electricity generated during that month came from wind, and the other 2 percent was from solar sources, including residential and utility-scale solar panels. The EIA noted these two renewable sources are highly seasonal: wind generates increased in electricity during spring and solar output reaches its highest numbers in the summertime.

The agency said it’s likely when they review the data for April, the trend will have continued: “Based on seasonal patterns in recent years, electricity generation from wind and solar will probably exceed 10% of total U.S. generation again in April 2017, then fall to less than 10% in the summer months,” according to a press release by the EIA. Renewable energy is clearly stirring things up, as it continues to break records — and not just in the U.S. These record-breaking quarters aren’t surprising, since the price of renewables has decreased considerably compared to traditional coal-based sources. Renewables are also disrupting the U.S. job scene: more people are now employed by solar power than all fossil fuel employers combined. Renewable employees also outnumber those working at huge companies like Google, Facebook, and even Apple.